How to manage your team of remote developers
April 16, 2019
Over the past decade, remote work (or telecommuting) has been steadily gaining popularity. According to some of the latest statistics, 52% of employees around the world work remotely at least once a week. 18% of those employees work remotely full time.
IT and software development are at the forefront of the global remote work revolution. In fact, 29.2% of all global remote jobs are offered in IT, which is currently the highest number among all the industries supporting remote work.
Therefore, it’s quite likely that your web development business may end up with an employee or two working remotely. Even a whole team.
Pros and cons of remote work
The popularity of remote work comes as a surprise to no one. Improving productivity, reducing overhead costs and employee turnover, diminishing environmental impact, increasing employee satisfaction, and enlarging the pool of talent to choose from are just a few of the many benefits affecting employers and employees alike.
However, there’s a downside to it as well. Organizational difficulties can arise out of the physical distance between co-workers. Managers may feel a lack of control and insight into what their teams are doing.
At the same time, workers can feel disconnected and left out of the loop, especially if only a couple of people from a team are remote while the rest share a traditional office.
Ironically, work-life balance may suffer as a result of remote work, since there’s no clear line between the working and leisure parts of the day.
Individuals are different and so are businesses. Remote work may be perfect for one firm while another could face more disadvantages than benefits. If you’re unsure, give it a shot with one or two employees at first. That will give you a taste of what it’s like to manage a hybrid team of in-house and remote workers.
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Managing remote employees
If you’re leaning toward hiring remote workers for your web development business, you’ll need to know a few tricks and resources to help manage your team. It takes a bit of adjustment, especially if you’re used to running in-house teams, but with a little effort, you may start to see positive results quite soon.
As with a traditional in-house team, communication is key with remote workers as well. However, instead of knocking on someone’s door, you’ll need to reach out to them electronically.
Apps like Slack and Zoom help you keep in touch with your employees. Slack allows you to operate several channels of communication with various team members, organized according to your specific needs. You can have topical channels, one-on-one conversations, and even share files through the app.
Zoom, on the other hand, facilitates virtual meetings and webinars. Screen sharing as well as excellent quality video and audio feeds allow your team to feel as if they’re in the room with you, even if you’re thousands of miles away.
For web developers, collaboration on various coding and design tasks is essential. Integrated development environment (IDE) platforms like Cloud9, GitHub, or Codeanywhere allow your team to work together on creating code.
InVision helps with working together on design elements, while Google Docs and Sheets allow you to share written data. For storage, you can use Google Drive or Dropbox to keep all your files safe and accessible to everyone. These tools help you manage the level of access among your employees, which means that you get to decide who can view and modify certain files.
The worst nightmare of remote team-leaders is their employees lying around all day on the couch, watching Netflix. Alternatively, your clients may wonder how you know what your developers actually do during the hours you’re invoicing them for.
Time-tracking apps like Harvest and Hubstaff give you the peace of mind any in-house team leader with the ability to look in on their employees has. Short of actually spying on your employees, all you need to do is check through the app to see how much time a team member has spent on a particular project.
This also comes in handy should a client raise the question about why they’re being billed for a certain amount of hours. Time-tracking apps provide a reliable and transparent way to track your team members’ working hours to the satisfaction of both clients and employees.
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As we mentioned earlier, one of the downsides of remote working is a lack of connection. While this doesn’t seem like such a big problem at first, it may contribute to a feeling of demotivation, a loss in productivity, and even depression.
Don’t let this happen to your team. Make sure that your team members get to know each other as a person and not just as names on a screen. Keep a communication channel open for non-work related topics. These virtual “watercooler” conversations help team members let off steam and appreciate each other outside of work.
Similarly, just like with a traditional in-house team, organize regular team-building events. If geography allows it, try to have in-person gatherings as often as you can.
If that’s not possible, go for virtual team-building adventures. For example, playing an online game together can strengthen the sense of community and help team members bond with each other.
Whether we like it or not, remote work is here to stay. Since IT is at the forefront of telecommuting, there’s a chance that your web development business will be affected by this trend.
Learn the tricks of managing a remote team and help your telecommuting employees thrive in this new, exciting, virtual work environment.